We understand that the decision to send your student on a study abroad/away may be a difficult one: there are safety and financial issues to consider, and there are many programs and different types of experiences to choose from. We also understand that the decision to study abroad/away is often one involving many loved ones.
Remember, a study abroad/away experience will bring many positive things:
- Real-world skills that aren’t found in classrooms
- Proficiency in a second language
- Global friendships and connections
- Confidence and independence
We encourage you to communicate with your student about their goals and expectations long before they set out on the journey. Your support and enthusiasm are impactful—at every step of their education.
Emergency response plan
When an emergency incident occurs abroad/away, UC Santa Cruz Global Learning will immediately mobilize resources in coordination with campus and UC staff, local onsite staff and faculty, as well as local authorities and emergency organizations. This defines the lines of communication, the scope of support required, the resources needed to assist students abroad, and any coordination with third-party organizations.
Our promise to you
- We comply with FERPA laws that affect what information we can and cannot share with our student’s loved ones. If a student would like for their information to be made available to others, they must first complete a FERPA waiver. Please visit FERPA for Parents for more information about FERPA.
- We host pre-departure sessions and provide resources to prepare your student to adapt, learn, and excel in their new environment.
- We mitigate risks appropriately and as best we can in all locations where we place students.
- We and our partners communicate with your student’s host institution (or program provider) appropriately with information pertinent to their experience before, during, and after their education abroad experience.
- We listen to your student and respond promptly to their concerns regarding registration, billing, and other university matters.
Tips for supporting your student
Things to keep in mind
- Your student should understand the centrality of their role in co-creating a positive education abroad/away experience by disclosing any needs they have that might affect their health, safety, or wellness. We want students to feel comfortable sharing issues and concerns directly with us, faculty leaders, program staff in their host country, and anyone else overseeing their program administration.
- Students are responsible for paying any bills, library fines, or balances owed to UCSC in a timely manner.
- Your student has made the time to discuss with you the goals and expectations that they have for their international or intercultural experience. Students must also be thinking ahead about housing and registering for classes for the quarter following their education abroad experience.
- Your student discloses to you as well as the UCSC Global Learning staff any additional travel and activities they have planned which are independent of their education abroad program.
- You are aware that your student – rather than UCSC staff, Faculty Leaders, Host Institutions, UCEAP or provider partners – may be the most appropriate source for some information.
- Your student develops a communication plan with you that addresses when and how often to be in contact while abroad/away. It is particularly important to discuss the importance of a first call home upon arrival in their host community.
Research the host country/community
Helping your student to research their host country before studying abroad/away can greatly reduce the severity of your student’s culture shock. It is a good idea to become familiar with the culture, history, politics, and everyday life of the host country and city. For international programs, general information about your student’s host country and the surrounding area can be found on the State Department’s Country Information Pages. We encourage you to talk with your student and read about your student’s host country prior to departure. Gaining more knowledge about the destination will help to answer questions and address your concerns.
We recommend working with your student to create a folder of practical resources and information, including:
- Name, address, phone number, and email of the host family or residence where your student will be staying while abroad.
- Information for the UCSC Global Learning office as well as the study abroad office in the host country, if applicable.
- The phone, fax, and email address of your student’s academic advisor.
- An emergency contact name, phone number, address, and email domestically and abroad.
- A copy of your student’s passport, flight information, travel itinerary, and credit cards.
- The address, directions, and phone number to the nearest U.S. Embassy in the host country.
- Addresses, phone numbers, and emails for the loved ones your student wishes to contact while abroad.
- Landmarks and places of interest. Tourist-type websites usually list historical information, admissions costs, opening times, directions, and special events for places of interest.
- Historical, political, and current event information about the host country in addition to cultural etiquette, national sports, music, authors, food, and pop culture.
- Special events that will occur at the time your student is abroad such as festivals, concerts, etc.
Develop a communications plan
Connecting across continents and time zones can be tricky, and you may be used to frequent or even daily contact with your student here in the U.S. Talk about how you will communicate as well as how often. Students may need to separate themselves a bit from their home support networks as they build a local one. Be prepared for less frequent communication. Your student is experiencing, exploring, and seeking an opportunity for cultural immersion.
- Email – Communication should be easy if you and your student have access to email. At the same time, understand that internet access overseas is not always as reliable as it is in the U.S.
- Phone – Contact your phone provider to learn about international rates. Another option is to purchase a calling card with reduced rates for the country in which your student is studying.
- Video Chat (Zoom/Skype) – Skype and Zoom are free, downloadable software applications that allow users to make live video and/or voice calls over the internet. Other similar messenger software to explore are Facetime, Google Hangouts, and WhatsApp.
- Mail – Students often appreciate receiving letters or postcards from loved ones while they study abroad/away. Care packages from home are also fantastic; however, international shipping costs and time vary. Consider asking your student to send a postcard to you.
Read about Cultural Adjustment
Adapting to a different culture can be exciting, frustrating, and challenging. When a student participates in global learning programs, culture impacts the way that they interact with everyone they meet in their new environment – the people with whom they share accommodations, bus drivers, professors, café owners, classmates, and more. Learning how to engage with others in new cultural contexts while living and studying in another culture has its adventures, benefits, and trials. Often, these opportunities to engage across cultures are considered the most rewarding aspect of a global learning experience.
Learning to navigate another culture’s values, beliefs, and thought processes can take a lifetime; however, most students only have weeks or months. This is why research prior to departure can greatly assist students to better understand the intricacies of cultural transition and gain more significant meaning from the experience while it occurs. Students should take the time to understand what culture is and how it affects them abroad/away.
No two students adapt at the same pace or in the same manner; however, there are several phases of cultural adaptation that people living in another culture for an extended period of time experience. The following information is adapted from Survival Kit for Overseas Living by Robert L. Kohls (chapter “Culture Shock: Occupational Hazard of Overseas Living”).
Phases of cultural adjustment
Adjustment to a new culture tends to occur in stages. Initially, there is a honeymoon phase. Your student is in a new country/community, and everything is exhilarating and exciting. Perhaps they are involved in a flurry of orientation and getting settled, getting hosted around the town or city.
Suggestions for support – Listen to the student’s exciting stories and appreciate the unique experiences he or she has the opportunity to enjoy. Remember these good experiences to use when times become more challenging. Some cultures are so different from the U.S. that it may be difficult for the student to put it into words. Ask your student specific questions about the country, culture, and people in order to better understand their experience.
Irritability and Hostility
After the first couple of weeks, the initial excitement might pass and your student may begin to confront the deeper differences in their new location. Maybe they will be tired of the food or struggling with the language. Maybe they will be tired of long commute times. Maybe everything is more expensive or a different variety than originally expected. The student may feel irritable, hostile, or like they don’t really belong.
Suggestions for support – It is not uncommon for students to contact home upset about some aspect of the new culture, people, and program. Find out exactly what is frustrating your student, but try to avoid judging the cultural differences. Be supportive and encourage them to discuss these issues with the resident director. The on-site staff has dealt with many situations and is well-prepared to help your student during the initial adjustment period.
Be patient. Almost always, the initial struggles will disappear with time and the student will experience a stage of gradual adjustment. A sense of humor will reappear. Things that seemed strange or inconvenient will gradually become familiar. The student will be able to function more easily within the culture.
Suggestions for support – Listen to your student’s stories with interest. Congratulate them for understanding the social norms, making local friends, and other such successes.
Adaptation or Biculturalism
Lastly, there is the stage of adaptation or biculturalism. Your student has managed to retain their own cultural identity but recognizes the right of other cultures to retain theirs. The participant has a better understanding of their self and others, and can communicate easily and convey warmth and understanding across the cultural barriers.
There is no one way to experience culture shock. It may be acute or barely noticeable. You may find it returns once after you thought your student had already passed through all the stages. As a loved one, you may not even be aware that your student is going through a cultural adjustment, or to what extent. Simply be aware that cultural adjustment exists, that it will probably affect your student in one way or another, but that it doesn’t last forever. Cultural adjustment can be a very valuable experience, which can leave people with broader perspectives, deeper insight into themselves, and a wider acceptance of other people.
Reverse Cultural Adjustment
Students often go through a phase of “reverse” or “re-entry” cultural adjustment when they return from studying abroad/away. Sometimes this phase can be more challenging than what was initially experienced abroad/away. For your student, returning to their home culture probably feels much like when they arrived in their host country. Home might feel foreign, or no longer feel familiar and natural. The stages of cultural adjustment experienced abroad/away can repeat coming home, in reverse cultural adjustment.
Suggestions for support – Encourage your student to think about who they are and what goals they have. Focusing on everyday tasks will make it easier for them to adjust to life back home.